Carlsbad kid grows giant cabbage, wins some cabbage for college


Katie Goetz
Public Information Officer
575-646-2804 office

NMDA applauds young grower/scholar, encourages young people to try their hand at agriculture

(CARLSBAD, N.M.) – After growing a 14-pound head of cabbage last season, one elementary school student in Carlsbad has added $1,000 to the account for his future college expenses.

Kaleb Rodriguez, a nine-year-old 4th grader at Pate Elementary School, was honored at a school assembly last week with the presentation of a $1,000 scholarship from Bonnie Plants, a national producer of vegetable, herb, and flower plants.  Mark Alvarado of the Bonnie Plants greenhouse in McIntosh, N.M., presented the award during a student assembly at Pate Elementary School, where Kaleb is a 4th grader this year.  Also on hand for the presentation was Katie Goetz, the spokeswoman for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA).

“That was a beautiful head of cabbage,” Alvarado said of Kaleb’s winning plant.  “Normally, you see them with holes in the leaves, but the cabbage he grew didn’t have those.”

Kaleb’s green-thumb secret?  “I watered it, and I brought it in at night,” he said.

Kaleb’s name was drawn from among several finalists in New Mexico who each successfully grew a large cabbage last year while in 3rd grade.  Those students – and others like them across the country – each started out with a two-inch transplant provided at no cost by Bonnie Plants.  The company awards a $1,000 scholarship to one cabbage-growing student in each state, each year.

This was the first time that 3rd graders at Pate Elementary participated in the program.  Following the success of one of their own, school principal Nora Villarreal says Pate Elementary will continue to participate.

“What an awesome program [this is] in giving our scholars an opportunity in learning about agriculture in showing responsibility in a simple form as in providing the proper care in growing a plant,” Villarreal said.

“Any one of you could grow up to be a farmer or rancher,” NMDA’s Goetz told the students at Kaleb’s school.  “Cabbage doesn’t care if you’re a man or a woman, how tall you are, or what color your eyes, hair, or skin is – and the cows don’t care what kind of clothes you wear, just so long as you remember to feed them.”

“This unique, innovative program exposes children to agriculture and demonstrates, through hands-on experience, where food comes from,” Stan Cope, president of Bonnie Plants, writes on the company’s website.  “The program also provides youth with valuable life lessons in nurture, nature, responsibility, self-confidence, and accomplishment.”

The Bonnie Plants website says the mission of its 3rd Grade Cabbage Program is “to inspire a love of vegetable gardening in young people”.  The company says the cabbages are the O.S. Cross variety, known for producing giant, oversized heads.

Goetz said NMDA is proud to work with Bonnie Plants to build young people’s interest in agriculture.